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Diamonds in the Ruff

Who & What to Bring to Class

Class size is limited to 3 people per dog.


Family consistency is extremely important. We encourage all interested family members to help with your dog's training. Older, well-behaved children are welcome - those who will take an active part in your dog's class training. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. We encourage you to take turns working with your dog in class.  The dog will become confused if he's trying to listen to everyone at once. Children should wait their turn quietly and not be bouncing around their dog (or ANY student's dog) while it is trying to concentrate. Dogs struggle to listen and follow directions when distracted. They need space and focus to learn. Please see the page on "Kids in the Classroom" for more helpful hints!

Please, no bare feet, flip-flops, or high-heels - for comfort's sake, wear low-heeled walking shoes. Please bring a small non-slip mat for your dog to lie on. In wet or snowy weather, bring a towel for drying your dog's feet and fur.  You may want bring your own drink in a non-spill-able container.

In-person make-ups are not available,  but if you are absent, you won't miss your lessons! 

In addition to your written handbook, you will receive a link to our online homework to include videos of class demos and detailed instructions that you can review together as you practice at home.  Zoom class recording links are also provided on the online homework page. The online homework links will be sent in a group email prior to the start of class. Please be sure we are on your safe-senders list so you don't miss it!

Week one - Beginning Class orientation:

First week is people training, pups stay home except for invited demo dogs that the instructor will use to demonstrate the exercises that everyone will practice at home during the week.  (Please email if you think your dog would make a good demo dog.)

Be sure to bring your Vet Permission slip and class payment with you to class if you haven't sent it already!

If you were unable to get your vet slip signed, please be sure to bring it with you week two.

Review your online homework each week.  The password is provided in your reminder email.

Week two:  Assemble all your supplies in a tote bag to bring to class!
What to pack:  A nice variety of high value training rewards, a bottle of water and an unbreakable bowl, a non-squeaky chew to keep them busy between exercises, a non-slip mat or rug to lie on.  (You won't need to bring your printed handbook to class each week - that is your *home*work!)  Go here for a checklist of what to pack for class!

Bring your dog hungry and well exercised.
Your dog is going "out to dinner" on class night!  You wouldn't eat your regular dinner if you knew you had restaurant reservations, and neither should your dog.  We will be using food rewards in class - if he's just polished off a big meal, he'll be less enthused about working to earn rewards. Bring high value, enticing rewards to class (see examples below) as you will be competing for his attention in a rich and novel environment! If your dog is on a special diet or isn't motivated to work for food, these articles may help: 


Allergies? Sensitive Stomach? 

Not Motivated by Food?


Bring a rubber-backed rug or a mat for your dog to lie on.

Think bath mat or kitchen rug - something that is easy to roll up and carry and that won't slip around on the hard floor.  Practice teaching your dog to settle on this mat at home during the week, so he will have plenty of practice.  This will help him be better able to contain his enthusiasm in a classroom with other dogs and people.



Click here for more information on approved equipment and training tools.
You will need a snug-fitting flat buckle collar, martingale-type collar, or harness, and a 4-6 foot leash: leather is best, nylon is fine. - no chain leashes, metal chain or prong collars, or retractable Flexi leads, please.  Absolutely no shock collars allowed on the premises.


Your instructor may recommend alternative options or additional equipment during your class. We will help you select the most appropriate equipment for your particular dog.  A small selection of collars, leads, and other pet supplies are available onsite courtesy of Prairie Dog Pet Mercantile.  (Cash, checks made out to Prairie Dog are accepted in the store; we are also able to take debit or credit cards.)  For help in selecting and fitting equipment and a huge selection training rewards, visit Prairie Dog Pet Mercantile on South Regal or in Kendall Yards.


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Motivators & Rewards: 


Experiment at home with different types of foods to find good motivators for your dog - bring a variety and generous amount of small, soft, moist, smelly, extra wonderful food treats with you to class each week.  Introduce them gradually the week before class so as not to upset their stomach with a huge amount of new foods all at once in an exciting environment. High value!

Dry treats or dog food kibble can be fine when training at home or for easy-to-motivate dogs. However, in the distracting class environment or when competing with the sights and smells of the real world, you will find that real cubed chicken, low-fat cheese, soft-moist treats and healthy cubed meat rolls like Natural Balance or Happy Howie dog food rolls will work much better in the face of high-level distractions in the real world. 

The more nervous or excited your dog is, the higher the value the reward will need to be.

Proper reward size:  Tiny!  

Small enough to swallow quickly without needing to stop and chew.  For your average dog, think the size of a cubed carrot in a package of frozen mixed vegetables.  For a small dog, the size of a lentil.  The higher the value, the smaller each reward can be and still be fabulous. This eliminates satiation and weight gain.


You can greatly reduce the sheer quantity of food going into your dog's stomach by cutting each treat into quarters or even sixths!  Same amount of ounces, 4-6 times as many opportunities to reward great behavior!

Whatever you add during training should be subtracted from their bowl at mealtime.

Bring a variety- more than you think you will need! 
Great options for your high-value moist treat mix:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast.  Steam in the microwave until cooked through, but still moist.  (If it's over cooked it will be dry and fall apart into crumbs.)  Cut into small cubes.

  • Turkey burger patties.  They are convenient and easily cubed.

  • Dog food meat rolls - looks like a summer sausage.  Slice and cube into small squares.  Happy Howies, Natural Balance are best for firm texture and easy to cut up and handle.  Don't buy the Fresh Pet food brand food roll from the grocery store - it's too soft and mushy.

  • Add as a small percentage of the total in your treat mix: tiny pieces of low-sodium hotdogs and low-fat string cheese. Add these to your mix for interest and when facing high distractions.

People Food?  At the end of the day, if you open a cellophane pouch that says "dog treat" on it and ask for a sit and you reward that sit with the stuff in the pouch, it's very likely that most of the ingredients in that "dog treat" you just handed them are "people food" ...  The word "dog" on the label doesn't magically change the fact that chicken is chicken. 


What it DOES mean is that you will need to look at the ingredients list to make sure there aren't any problem ingredients in that bag, like xylitol, chocolate, or raisins ...  or that the fat content isn't too rich or that it isn't full of a large amount of sugar.  This is why your vet cautions you about "people food."   My dog would happily work for mini marshmallows.  But that's not in my treat tote!  You should still read the ingredients list of the "dog treats" because cheap treats can be full of awful stuff!

Packaged soft-moist treats are convenient, but less-healthy and way more expensive than 'real' meat that you cook and cut up yourself.  They can be broken or cut into small bits.  Be sure to keep the bag closed tight, or they will dry up and turn hard as rocks!  Don't mix them with your real meat mix, as they will get slimy.  Look for American made!  Zukes, Tricky Trainers. Nudges.  (These are often high in sugar and very rich, so dogs may love the first few but satiate on them much more quickly than non-processed natural foods.)  

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The Trick for Cooking Chicken that doesn't turn into crumbs!
Steam the boneless, skinless chicken breast in the microwave.  The length of time depends on the size of the breast and the power of your microwave.  For an average still-frozen breast we do 3.5 minutes on each side.  (7 total, turn over halfway through.  A little more or a little less for larger or smaller pieces or if cooking more than one.)  


The trick is to wrap it in a paper towel to hold in the moisture and don't overcook it.  It shouldn't have any pink left, but it shouldn't be overdone.  Overcooked chicken dries out and crumbles into messy flakes.  If it's a really thick breast, or it looks like the thinner ends are done before the middle is, cut off the thin ends before finishing cooking the rest.   Let the chicken cool before cubing and use a sharp knife.


High value, moist and meaty treats. Choose healthy options!  Reduce regular meals to accommodate the additions to your dog's diet.

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Dog food rolls & cubed chicken breast.


The trick with chicken is to keep it moist. Steam in the microwave - don't over cook! 

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Low-fat string cheese and low-sodium hot dogs in tiny pieces and small amounts.  They are salty and rich, so use sparingly.

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How to cut up training treats:

Happy Howie dog food rolls are our favorite for quality, ease of cutting, and firm texture.  They come in turkey, beef, and lamb.
AVOID: Fresh Pet brand dog food roll in the refrigerator in the dog food aisle at the grocery store.  It's way too soft and mushy and makes a mess.  (Fresh Pet does make a pet food morsel that comes in a bag.  It's better, but the rice flour still sticks to your fingers, so bring along wipes for your fingers.  For higher palatability, the cat food version is a favorite.)

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Crunchy dry treat rewards for low-distraction situations - create a mix of a variety of small and tasty morsels.  The size should be "one crunch" and quickly swallowed.

  • Highest value:  Vital Essentials, Ziwi Peak, Steve's real food, dehydrated liver, cat treats.

  • Moderate value:  Smack n' Snax, dry cat food, Charlee Bear, Red Barn Air-Dried, pet food samples of brands or novel meat source your dog doesn't usually eat.

  • Low value:  His usual dry dog food that he gets every day for free.


If your dog has a sensitive stomach, allergies, isn't very food motivated, is on a special diet, is stressed or highly distracted and needs super extra-high value rewards, check out THIS PAGE for some great suggestions to help you find great high value rewards for your individual dog.

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Read the ingredients list on that packaged food. 

Is it full of sugar, artificial colors, and chemicals you can't pronounce?  Or is it full of REAL food?   

Ingredients are listed by quantity - most to least. 

The package should clearly state what kind of meat and grains.  This is especially important if your dog has allergies.  Generic "animal fat or digest" sources could be any combination of meat sources dropped at a rendering plant.  


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SINGLE MEAT SOURCE WITH VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROLS) AS A PRESERVATIVE.  No artifical colors or chemical preservatives.

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The second ingredient in this package of treats is corn syrup!  This is like "Twinkies" for dogs!

The more types of rewards you have to reward your dog, the better trained your dog will be!

Food, toys, games, petting, praise and most of all, your attention! Access to what your dog wants - getting to go through a door, eat his dinner, go sniff a great scent, say hello to a dog friend or be petted by a visitor are all real life rewards that will replace the food rewards you are using in early training.

What's the BEST reward?  Whatever your dog says is "best" to him!  Like people, dogs vary in what is their "favorite" food, game or activity.  Experiment.  The best reinforcer is the one your dog is crazy about.

In addition to making sure your dog is extra hungry and well-exercised, here's a helpful suggestion to help manage your dog's excitable self in class:  Take turns being the one who listens to instructions while the other focuses on keeping him busy and focused.  Then trade for the next exercise.  Now the one who will be working the dog will know what to do when it comes time to work, rather than trying to listen to the instructor while managing the wiggle-monster on the end of your leash.  It will give each of you short breaks to re-group and will give your dog a fresh face to work with every so often.  No helper?  Stand on his leash  Bring a favorite stuffed Kong, bully stick or other non-squeaky pacifier chew to keep help him busy.  Portable gates are available to reduce the dogs' view of their amazing neighbors.

Be thoughtful about the seat you choose.  If your dog is 'beside himself' with excitement or worried in the group environment, try to seat yourself at the end of a row, away from the entrances.  We have portable gates to help define personal space and we can create a solid barrier by adding blankets to reduce fear/frustration as needed to help set your dog up for success, please ask your instructor if you need additional help or suggestions!


More suggestions for setting your pup up for success in the classroom.

(c) Diamonds in the Ruff - All rights reserved

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